Thanks Tony Whatley & Suspect Device fanzine for this kind review of Ian Glasper's forthcoming Subhumans book...
I can remember my introduction to the Subhumans, there was a short “new band” feature in Sounds and Gary Bushell made some snide remark about not liking their Politics, but did say that he loved their music. There was something about the photo and this write up that made me want to go out and get their first 7”, the ‘Demolition War’ EP. Of course, when I got the record home which I was instantly hooked. It’s a brilliant record musically, and who could question their politics? I mean if you don’t like the politics on this EP then what politics do you like? That EP seemed to me to be a pretty good comment on what it was like to be a teenager in the early 1980s, and also, ‘Society’ is one of the greatest punk songs ever, and then there was ‘Human Error’, just stunning. I was a fan straight away and each new record was bought and adored, I had that Sounds cover photo on my bedroom wall, and ‘The Day The Country Died’ is the album I have play most over the years, I Never tire of it.
Apart from the brilliant music and inspirational lyrics I wonder if the attraction was also because they weren’t from a big city, they were from small towns in Wiltshire, and I was living on the edge of the New Forest, far away from the bustling city centres of the punk rock universe (or was it because, like me when I was with Gaz, they would often quote Monty Python at each other)? Whatever it was they clicked with me from the time I listened to that debut EP for the first time, and the affection I have for them has remained, undiminished to this day.
I have been looking forward to this book ever since Ian Glasper mentioned he was going to write it, it was always going to be a book I would be buying at the earliest opportunity. The fact that Ian is a fan of the band means that he has put everything into this, spending time with the band, going through diaries, collecting anecdotes and getting first hand stories from those in and around the band thought the years to tell the story of the band, including members of Vermin, Stupid Humans and The Mental as well as their friends in bands like A-Heads and Organised Chaos, their roadies and friends in the UK, US, Australia and Europe etc.. All his hard work has really paid off as this is wonderful read, it’s detailed but fast paced, and I found myself really captivated by it all.
It’s all here, the genesis of the band, the practising, song writing, the records and the recording, the gigs (there is a full gig list at the back), the tours, the original split and the reformation. Throughout the book are some great photos going right back to the early days of their pre-Subhumans bands, as well as Dick’s original handwritten lyrics, gig posters, flyers, clippings etc. In fact everything you could possibly want to know about this very special band is in here.
With all that included, you won’t be surprised to hear that this book is huge, at over 600 pages, but I couldn’t put it down, at every opportunity I would go back to the book and completely immerse myself in the world of the Subhumans, I read the whole thing in a week.
Towards the end Dick talks about how he doesn’t really understand when people say that the Subhumans, or any band for that matter, has changed their life. Well, Dick, if the ‘Evolution’ EP didn’t change my life, it certainly had a huge and lasting affect on me. The title track helped me get some clarity about how I viewed the treatment of animals; I would call myself an animal lover, but still at that point ate meat and didn’t really think that I could do anything about vivisection. But the insert listing the companies that didn’t test on animals was a real eye opener. I could make a difference in my own little way just by where I chose to spend my money. It set me on the road to boycotting companies who’s ethical practises I found lacking, and also to eventually becoming a vegan. In March 2022 I went to see the Subhumans on my birthday. One of my presents was a hoodie bought in support of the Free The MBR Beagles campaign, it had the words End Animal Experiments across the top. So on my 56th birthday, I was wearing this garment while watching the Subhumans play ‘Evolution’, and I found myself getting a little emotional. It was the perfect birthday present.
There is always a worry that when you read a book about a much loved and admired band that they destroy all your preconceptions and you end up really disappointed and disillusioned. Not so here, the members of the Subhumans, past and present, prove to be really down to earth, principled and funny people, and Ian allows their personalities to shine through. They have their serious, political songs, but they also have a real sense of humour and they also just treat people properly. So, far from being disappointed, I came away loving them even more.
I expected this to be good as I like Ian’s writing and I love the band, but I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so thorough, in fact it’s better than I could have ever hoped for."